The emotions will be high tonight at TD Garden as the Boston Bruins (34-11-12, 80 points) get set to host the desperate Montreal Canadiens (27-24-7, 61 points). The old rivalry, arguably the best in hockey, features two teams in different spots. The Canadiens are fighting for their playoff lives, while the Bruins are fighting to stay on top of the Atlantic Division.
It is the fourth and final meeting between the teams this season. The Bruins have won two of the first three meetings, including a 3-1 decision at TD Garden on December 1st.
Ready For Emotional, Desperate Habs
The Bruins, barring a major collapse, will once again be playing playoff hockey in April. The same cannot be said for the Canadiens right now. Montreal sits eight points behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. They’ve also played one more game than the Flyers.
The Canadiens are desperate. They need wins, and they need them now.
“As the season progresses, you see the desperation from a lot of teams,” Patrice Bergeron said Tuesday.
The Bruins won’t have to have the same level of desperation as their rivals. They do see value in playing teams fighting for their lives, however.
“It’s a good thing for us and for everyone,” Bergeron continued. “It’s the type of hockey that you want to play and be a part of. Again, we know when that happens and that desperation comes in, they’re not easy games. They’re tough and hard fought…it’s what we need to get ready for. Looking forward to it.”
Jake DeBrusk believes that more than desperation plays a part in this game. The power forward believes that there will be lots of emotion when these two face off. That’s not a bad thing.
“Didn’t like our last game against Detroit, but we’re moving on to Montreal – a pretty emotional game for both sides,” DeBrusk began. “It should be lots of fun, understanding that teams are coming for us. They pretty much have been all year ever since our start.”
Bergeron agreed that there will be emotion. He also seems to think that will add to the fun of it all.
“We’re facing a team that [it] doesn’t take much to get [excited] for,” Bergeron admitted. “It’s always fun to play against Montreal, always tough games…fun for the fans and everybody.”
Clifton, Halak Updates
Jaroslav Halak was a surprise scratch on Sunday, paving the way for Tuukka Rask to get his second start in as many days. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy doesn’t expect Halak’s injury to be a long-term one. In fact, Cassidy admitted that Halak is likely to play this upcoming weekend.
“Just a little nagging thing that maybe if it’s a night game he gets through it in the morning and gets some treatment. I think it had something to do with the timing as well,” Cassidy said regarding the veteran goalie.
“Just a lot of bad things running together. I don’t believe it will be a problem. It does make us think, ‘How are we gonna schedule it this week because he’s gonna play one of the two.'”
“Felt really good, felt good to be back with the guys, first contact practice. It was nice to get that under the belt. Progressing well. Hopefully [back] soon,” said Clifton on Monday. “Just like anyone, you don’t want to really watch, you want to play. But injuries happen in this game. It’s part of the process. You’ve just got to battle through when you’re injured to get back.”
Habs Excited For Challenge
The Canadiens, like the Bruins, are excited for the emotional rivalry game. Brendan Gallagher, one of the Canadiens key veterans, enjoys the atmosphere and the challenge of playing the Bruins.
“It’s definitely one of my favorite places in the League to play. There’s just something to it, the Montreal-Boston rivalry,” said Gallagher. “We’ve had a playoff series here. You understand the emotion that comes with it, and that stuff sticks with you; it’s not something that goes away. When you go through those heated games and series, that kind of stuff carries forward and never really leaves your memory.”
Another veteran, Paul Byron, also loves this stage. Unfortunately for him, Byron won’t be able to go tonight for the Canadiens. Although he traveled to Boston and skated Wednesday morning, Byron will not play tonight.
“He has the green light for practice, but he hasn’t gotten the green light to play. He knows his situation well. We’ll see after tonight’s game,” said coach Claude Julien. “It’s still a decision for the doctors. We don’t want to rush him back; we want to ensure that we’re giving him the chance to come back in good shape.”
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Karson Kuhlman
Anders Bjork – Charlie Coyle – Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom – Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk – John Moore
Bruins lines against the Canadiens are subject to change. Nordstrom returns to the lineup after battling illness, while Par Lindholm leaves the lineup. Connor Clifton, as mentioned, is close to a return but is not quite ready. Rask gets the start after splitting the weekend against the Arizona Coyotes and Detroit Red Wings.
Montreal Canadiens Lines
Tomas Tatar – Phillip Danault – Brendan Gallagher
Ilya Kovalchuk – Nick Suzuki – Joel Armia
Jonathan Drouin – Max Domi – Artturi Lehkonen
Nick Cousins – Nate Thompson – Jake Evans
Ben Chiarot – Victor Mete
Brett Kulak – Jeff Petry
Marco Scandella – Xavier Ouellet
Price gets the start for the Canadiens in their finale against the Bruins. Byron (knee) and Shea Weber (lower-body) remain on IR. Weber could miss the remainder of the season, while Byron is slated to return soon. Jordan Weal (illness) is day-to-day and will not play tonight.